Arizona dairy pursues biorefinery project

By Ron Kotrba
Plans are in the works to build a $250 million integrated dairy operation and biorefinery complex in Vicksburg, Ariz. XL Dairy Group Inc. will fractionate more than 560,000 tons of corn to make 54 MMgy of ethanol, 5 MMgy of biodiesel, 60,000 gallons of milk per day and high-protein feed through processes powered by cow manure.

Project coordinator Michael McCloud said the first stage of development is to expand the core dairy operation from 2,500 to 7,500 cattle, a task that could be completed by the end of this year. Through anaerobic digestion, cow manure will be a primary energy feedstock to make biomethane for process heat and steam. Once all the cattle are on site, construction of the energy island-followed by the biofuels production plant-will commence. APS Energy Services has been contracted to design and engineer the energy center. During peak use, the entire complex will consume eight megawatts of power, leaving up to three megawatts for future additional milk processing capacity or sale back to the grid. Ethanol and biodiesel production is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2009.

Plans for algae propagation and processing systems to supplement corn as a feedstock for starch and oil is expected to double ethanol capacity and increase biodiesel production six-fold sometime in 2010, McCloud said. "The Achilles' heel of algae is the ability to put together a propagation system on a large scale that makes sense economically," said Dennis Corderman, CEO of XL Dairy Group. Patents have been filed for the company's first proprietary propagation system, Corderman said, and it is preparing to test its system soon on a significant scale.